Physical therapy at home just as effective

By Sheryl Kay • Published: June 13th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Even when it comes to medicine, sometimes there’s no place like home.

While the latest innovative and technologically advanced therapies can often deliver the best possible rehabilitative options and are available only in professional health provider settings, new research shows that therapy in a home setting can sometimes present equal if not better outcomes.

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers systematically assessed different interventions available to help patients regain the ability to walk after suffering a stroke. Recently presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, the study found that the high-tech solutions were not necessarily better.

More than four-hundred adults from six inpatient rehab centers were monitored for progress in their mobility for five years. Individuals in one group received in-home visits from a physical therapist who used strength-building and balancing exercises to help the patient. Participants in the other group were treated in a clinic where therapy included locomotor training by using a state-of-the-art body weight-supported treadmill. In the clinic setting, patients were also assisted by multiple therapists.

A year after the onset of therapy both groups were evaluated. Fifty-two percent of all patients did experience significant increases in mobility, walking speed and balance. At the same time, the researchers noted that the group that received locomotor training did not do any better than those who received therapy at home. In fact, patients who received therapy in the clinic were more likely to be injured during falls than those receiving therapy at home.

Another benefit to home care? It is often more accessible to patients, allowing people who can’t get to the clinic to receive the care they need.